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Tobacco smoking impacts teens' brains, UCLA study shows
Date:3/2/2011

icipant must prevent himself from pressing the button. It is a test of a person's ability to inhibit an action.

Prior to the fMRI test, the researchers used the Heaviness of Smoking Index (HSI) to measure the level of nicotine dependence in the smoking group. The HSI takes into account how many cigarettes a teen smokes in a day and how soon after waking he or she takes the first smoke.

The results of the tests, London said, were interesting and surprising. Among smokers, the researchers found that the higher the HSI that is, the more a teen smoked the lesser the activity in the prefrontal cortex. And yet, despite these lower levels of activation, the smoking group and the non-smoking group performed roughly the same with respect to inhibition on the Stop-Signal Task.

"The finding that there was little difference on the Stop-Signal Task between smokers and non-smokers was a surprise," said London, who is also a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute. "That suggested to us that the motor response of smokers may be maintained through some kind of compensation from other brain areas."

Protracted development of the prefrontal cortex has been implicated as a cause of poor decision-making in teens, London said, caused by immature cognitive control during adolescence.

"Such an effect can influence the ability of youth to make rational decisions regarding their well-being, and that includes the decision to stop smoking," she said.

The key finding, London noted, is that "as the prefrontal cortex continues to develop during the critical period of adolescence, smoking may influence the trajectory of brain development, affecting the function of the prefrontal cortex. In turn, if the prefrontal cortex is negatively impacted, a teen may be more likely to start smoking and to keep smoking instead of making th
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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